A crowd erupted in cheers outside the North Battleford courthouse Thursday when Gerald Stanley was ordered to stand trial after a preliminary inquiry into the shooting death of Colten Boushie, a case that has laid bare Saskatchewan’s racial divide.
Mr. Boushie, a 22-year-old Indigenous man, was shot and killed in Mr. Stanley’s farmyard, near Biggar, Sask., on Aug. 9, 2016. He was riding in a car with four friends at the time.
Mr. Boushie’s mother, Debbie Baptiste, wept as she left the courthouse. Mr. Boushie’s grandmother sat down at the side of the road and broke down in loud, anguished cries.
“He was my grandson. He took my heart away,” she said. Around her, supporters carrying placards and photos of Mr. Boushie chanted “Thou shalt not kill.”
Ms. Baptiste said later that it had been an emotional week. She found it difficult to see and hear evidence of what happened to her son that day, but the judge arrived at the right outcome, she said. No date has been set for Mr. Stanley’s trial on a charge of second-degree murder.
Roughly 100 people gathered outside the courthouse carrying signs with slogans such as “Justice for Colten,” and “Native Lives Matter.” Before proceedings began, there was traditional drumming and singing outside.
Police again blocked the road in front of the courthouse, after reducing security over objections from Mr. Boushie’s supporters earlier in the week, but were a less-visible presence.
After hearing evidence for three days, Judge Bruce Bauer ruled there was sufficient evidence to proceed to trial on the charge of second-degree murder. The evidence is covered by a publication ban. Mr. Stanley will also return to court in June to deal with charges of improper firearm storage.
Mr. Stanley left court with his lawyer, Scott Spencer. As he walked past Mr. Boushie’s family and their supporters, Mr. Stanley was met with loud shouts of “Justice for Colten.” He made no comment.
The reaction to Mr. Boushie’s death has underlined the troubled state of race relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Saskatchewan. The initial RCMP news release about Mr. Boushie’s killing angered many by referring to a “related theft investigation,” which in the eyes of Saskatchewan’s Indigenous chiefs provided enough prejudicial information to suggest “that the shooting was somehow justified.”
In the days after, Saskatchewan’s Premier Brad Wall called on citizens to stop the hateful, racist comments on social media. Recently, the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities voted overwhelmingly in favour of a resolution to lobby for relaxed laws on the use of force to defend property. The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, the umbrella group that represents Saskatchewan’s chiefs, responded by saying it was “shocked and disgusted by the violent intentions behind the resolution.”
“We can’t run and hide from the truth,” Heather Bear, a vice-chief with the FSIN, said outside the courthouse. “A young man has lost his life due to what we think is another case of a young Indigenous life not being … valued.”Report Typo/Error